Not just for tourists, camping is a beloved hobby and pastime by residents of Iceland, with many taking up their tents and heading out into the wilderness for unforgettable experiences.
Not only is it beneficial to have a base of operations when exploring the surrounding nature, but camping can be one of the most environmentally-conscious and affordable ways to see everything Iceland has to offer.
Our guide on camping in Iceland is designed for both tourists and natives, providing practical tips on what to expect, what to bring with you, and tips on the best spots you can use to camp safely.
Although you’ll be pretty open to the elements and right in the heart of nature, there are still some rules to abide by in order to get the most from your camping trip. Many of these are for your safety and the protection of the environment, so it’s vital that you follow them.
Firstly, if you are planning to camp in a tent, you’ll want to look up the various camping sites available across the country. Plan your route with a list of over 60 campsites, or alternatively visit one of the ‘wild camping’ areas and pop your tent down there. You will need to check the spot you’re looking to camp in is legal though, or you could risk damaging key natural resources and facing a fine or worse. You can obtain a camping pass, which will give you free access to the campsites, avoiding the upfront cost on arrival. If you are planning to visit a number of campsites as part of a road trip, it could be the most cost-effective way to manage this.
Conservation legislation passed in 2015 have added new rules and laws regarding camping across Iceland. Most notably, camper vans and cars with roof tents are required to camp within a registered campsite, as well as rules stating you can only camp in the majority of wild locations for 1 night on uncultivated and non-private land.
Additional information about the rules of camping can be found here, including specific guidance across the various regions of the country.
You don’t just have to think about camping in a tent if you’re planning your trip, many choose to use camper vans or cars as their source of reprieve.
This is likely the most luxurious method available when camping in Iceland, with the costs to come with it. You’ll have the most amenities available at your disposal throughout your time in the wilds and will have a great time. You are required to camp in campsites and urban areas, so those looking for the true wild experience might want to pack the tent! We rent camper vans with roof tents for holiday goers looking to get their camping fix.
A fantastic way to get a taste of Iceland’s natural landscape, many of the registered campsites are ideally located to highly sought after landmarks and sights. They can be found all over the country, so you’ll be able to plan an entire trip as you drive across the landscape and see everything Iceland has to offer.
The most authentic camping experience for the adventurous type, this involves camping at non-registered campsites throughout the country. While you are able to choose your own locations to bed down, you do still need to ensure it is a legal area - preservation of the natural environment is paramount at all times and unlawful camping could jeopardize this. Still, providing you only camp for a single night.
To learn more about the seasons of Iceland and the differences between them, we have created a guide to Icelandic seasons. With that said, there are a few considerations to make regarding your visit, depending on the type of camping you are undertaking.
Essentially, throughout the summer months - May through August - you can expect to see busy campsites and a lot of footfall across the many larger landmarks of Iceland. If you’re looking for a quieter trip but will be utilising campsites across the country, we recommend planning your trip in September, as you will avoid the main rush of tourism whilst retaining most of the summer warmth. If you’re comfortable breaking out the thermals and braving the elements, October can also be a good month to plan your camping trip.
If you’re wild camping, however, we absolutely recommend making the most of the summer months. While the roads will be busier, you won’t have any trouble finding a place to bed down for the night as you journey across the idyllic locale. Landmarks will still come with more footfall, but if you’re looking to see the wilder side of Iceland, you won’t be spending too much time at them anyway.
To ensure you don’t get caught out during your stay, we’ve created a list of important items to bring with you on your journey. Note that some items may not be brought on planes, so if you’re traveling as part of a holiday abroad, you may need to purchase them once you land.
Essential camping items:
Of course, there are always additional amenities and home comforts campers like to bring along, so don’t take this list as an exhaustive one - if you need a novel to help you nod off or a coffee to rouse you from the land of nod, go crazy! Camping should be a personal experience, so don’t be afraid to make it your own.
We hope this information has been helpful in planning your holiday to Iceland. For additional information about your journey to Iceland, including driving guidance, please see our guides below.